23 November, 2022
Child labour at mining sites in Karamoja sub-region

Moroto | October 2022. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Uganda in conjunction with Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), Local Governments, Advocates for Natural Resources and Development (ANARDE), and Resource Rights Africa (RRA) assessed and monitored the extent, dynamics, and trends of child labour in the mining areas in Abim, Amudat, Kaabong, Moroto and Nakapiripirit districts. The monitoring is intended to understand how stakeholders can support the local governments, civil society organisations, and communities to device holistic approaches to address child labour in mining.

Mining is one of the worst forms of child labour presenting life-threatening working conditions that are ultimately detrimental to the wellbeing of children. Children use their bare hands without any protective gear and poor tools and engage in strenuous work while standing and bending for over eleven hours entire seven days a week filtering alluvial ore to extract gold in certain locations. This exposes them to extreme conditions of heat and cold. While some children receive wages as low as Ugx. 5,000 (Equiv. USD 1.3), others receive only food and shelter in exchange for work. Materials such as mercury used by children to extract gold is toxic, harmful and cause profound health effects. Child labourers experience risks of injured or being trapped to death from collapsing shafts and tunnels, which were reported in Lopedo, Nakapel and Kokano in Kaabong and Abim districts, respectively.

“Child labour has become normal to us. Everyone must contribute for food. Nobody seems to care about these children. Not the government. Not the employers”, Loyete Jacob, Lopedo, Kaabong.

Despite sensitization and development of legislation against child labour, poverty and food insecurity, limited livelihoods options and the impact of social conflicts are considered contributing factors behind its continued practice. Children living in the mining areas are exposed to multi-layered and intricate challenges undermining the enjoyment of their rights. For instance, as mining sites are located in isolated areas where the police, schools, and basic service facilities are not easily accessible, children are more prone to alcohol and drugs abuse, crime, domestic and sexual and gender-based violence.

Considering the current situation, genuine solutions to child labour in the mining sector should initially focus at improving children’s working conditions, ensuring access to institutional and legal support to protect them from harm and exploitation. This could entail building and enhancing institutional capacity and setting up concrete measures to end child labour; advocating for ordinances on child labour and their enforcement; greater awareness raising and sensitization for changing social attitudes; and providing support households to improve their incomes, food security and diversify their livelihoods opportunities to make children see no reason for work.